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Educação & Realidade

versão impressa ISSN 0100-3143versão On-line ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.44 no.1 Porto Alegre  2019  Epub 07-Mar-2019 


Ten Years of PNEEPEI: an analysis from a biopolitical perspective

IUniversidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (UNESP), Marília/SP - Brazil


Amid the uncertainty of the current political context and an unprecedented institutional crisis in Brazil, this essay offers a theoretical analysis of the problems arising from the drafting, implementation and setback of PNEEPEI from a biopolitical perspective. To this end, supported by analyses by Foucault and Agamben, we will understand how Brazilian state governmentality addresses the inclusion of people with disabilities in school in terms of both biopolitics and Thanatos-politics. In light of the criticism of the scientific paradigm that brings together these two aspects underpinning PNEEPEI, we propose an aesthetic paradigm of inclusion to better meet the demands of the ethos of these people in school.

Keywords: Biopolitics; Inclusion; Disability; PNEEPEI; Aesthetic Paradigm


Em meio às incertezas do quadro político atual e de uma crise institucional sem precedentes no Brasil, este ensaio analisa teoricamente os problemas decorrentes da elaboração, implantação e dos refluxos da PNEEPEI pela perspectiva da biopolítica. Para isso, apoiados nas análises de Foucault e Agamben, compreenderemos o modo como a governamentalidade estatal brasileira se ocupa da inclusão das pessoas com deficiência na escola, elucidando suas faces tanto biopolítica quanto tanatopolítica. À luz da crítica ao paradigma científico que congrega essas faces, no qual a PNEEPEI se apoia, propomos um paradigma estético de inclusão, com vistas a melhor atender as demandas do ethos dessas pessoas na escola.

Palavras-chave: Biopolítica; Inclusão; Deficiência; PNEEPEI; Paradigma Estético

Ten Years of PNEEPEI1

The year 2018 marked 10 years since the publication of Política Nacional de Educação Especial na Perspectiva da Educação Inclusiva (Brazilian National Policy for Special Education in the Perspective of Inclusive Education - PNEEPEI). The document published under this specification (Brasil, 2008) was drafted by a committee chosen by the Ministry of Education and Culture, assisted by researchers representing the field of education and specialized in the subarea of Special Education. Its publication was a landmark in both public policies for this area and the concretization of efforts to address them at national level from an inclusive perspective.

Based on a diagnosis of the increased enrollment of students with disabilities in public and private schools since the publication of the National Education Plan (Brazil, 2001), the aforementioned document focuses on a small number of public policy goals that can be thus summarized: to expand special education across all educational levels, from preschool to higher education, curriculum adaptation and specialized educational care, ensuring continuous schooling for people with disabilities at increasingly higher levels of education; to enhance teacher training for working with such students in mainstream schools and, when necessary, specialized care; to promote accessibility in urban facilities, architecture design, furniture and equipment, as well as the participation of families and communities in this kind of care. It also lists a series of challenges to achieving those goals, aiming to ensure not only increased enrollment, but also effective access and, especially, the permanence of these students in school, providing them with equal conditions of access to current types of knowledge and practices and the means to assimilate them, and dignity in social relationships within the institution.

With these general guidelines, PNEEPEI provided a benchmark, alongside other documents on social inclusion and affirmative practices, for government policies for the sector, creating also an important paradigm for its respective field of study, which concentrated a significant part of the intellectual production in the area. However, much remains to be done, not only at state level and within the scope of government policy, but especially regarding current practices and types of knowledge in school, teacher training and the participation of families and communities of people with disabilities. Such is, at least, the assessment reached by recent studies that, linked to dossiers like the one published in this issue of the journal, indicate the need to proceed with its implementation process, as well as correct its course regarding certain aspects.

Among the aspects to be corrected we would like to highlight in this paper a criticism of the dominant inclusion paradigm2 and, above all, of the challenges stemming from a specific form of exclusion, within an inclusive perspective. In general, such criticism arises from the personal experiences reported by these people and, when not possible, by their relatives, friends, educators and school psychologists. We particularly side with such criticism, drawing on the concept of philosophy of difference, within the sphere of philosophy of education, to reflect on the problems faced by people with disabilities in school, especially due to the negative stance of school actors, engaged by types of knowledge and practices that legitimize them. And at the same time we side with the family members and friends of people with disabilities who, when the latter are unable to report their own educational experiences, take on the task of trying to express or mediate the demands of their ways of life, intervening in a specific school as actors that are part of a (in)visible community (Pagni, 2012; 2015), since we are parents of a school-age child in these conditions. Such is the context of the considerations of this essay which, like the other articles included in this issue of the journal, aims to critically analyze and discuss the achievements in the sphere of school inclusion of people with disabilities ten years after the publication of PNEEPEI, proposing new challenges to be faced in view of problems arising from its implementation and aggravated by the current political and cultural circumstances. We will divide our exposition into three parts: firstly, we will present a diagnosis of inclusion as a governmentality strategy of liberal and neoliberal state policies to occupy and neutralize the fundamental biopolitical fracture; then we will analyze the limits of its scientific paradigm underpinning PNEEPEI and the effects of the exclusion devices of an ethos so that people with disabilities are included; finally, we will discuss the epistemic deadlocks of the various areas of education to embrace what remained of and, above all, what exceeded their bodies and common ways of life, indicating the forms of resistance they represent and the need to consider a different paradigm for inclusion, on the aesthetic and political level in which their struggles occur.

Inclusion, Fundamental Biopolitical Fracture and Places of People with Disabilities

Amid the uncertainties of the current political context and an unprecedented institutional crisis in Brazil, some issues require keen reflection on the limits of the implementation of the PNEEPEI guidelines, as well as on the main political challenges posed by the unrest of the current setback in inclusive public policies. This is the reflection we intend to present in the first part of this paper, considering such a context and situating ourselves within it to propose an analysis of PNEEPEI in light of its understanding as a strategy of Brazilian state governmentality and a biopolitical requirement of neoliberalism so that, by embracing the chaos resulting from popular insurgency and trying to regulate it, the effects of its fundamental fracture are mitigated.

While in terms of Brazilian state governmentality we are experiencing a period of setbacks in inclusive policies, especially regarding some initiatives by the federal government, the neoliberal strategies of biopolitical reconfiguration are moving towards establishing a more amenable form of government of the population, in which the demands for the inclusion of the people, the multitude or excluded communities lose momentum in order to expose them to states of domination and violence.

The people in this case are viewed both as those deviating bodies that escape the normalization undertaken by the technologies of biopower - characterized as a political anatomy - and the population that gathers them around a set of regulations undertaken by the state government since modernity with the goal of making their lives productive and regulated - called biopolitics of the population (Foucault, 1990; 2007; 2008). In political liberalism these lives are exposed, due to greater state intervention, to security devices that are continuously created so these lives are integrated into the forms of governmentality and their governing arts distributed by the state, disciplining their bodies and regulating their existences in the sphere of a social body, called population. In this sense, inclusion policies represent a way of guaranteeing that those excluded from state governmentality enter the public sphere or political life and, especially, the competitive market, offering a series of devices that ensure the people’s integration in the rules of this game and the legal, economic and political standards of what is called a formal and contractual facet of citizenship.

Without actually considering this differentiation of what came to be termed population with Foucault (2007), other contemporary philosophers help us better define the ambiguity represented by this meaning of people, as is the case of Hardt and Negri (2005), when they replace it with the notion of multitude3, and especially Agamben (2004), when he reaffirms it to consider its ambiguity or to name it a fundamental biopolitical fracture. We will adopt here the latter position, more in tune with the purposes of this essay, since, following Agamben, one may consider not only the semantic ambiguity of the concept of people, but also a division that includes both the idea of ​​a unitary subject, that is, “[...] the set of the People as a whole political body,” and an oscillation comprising the “[...] subset of the people as a fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bodies” (Agamben, 2004, 184). It is this division that, according to him, produces a fracture of what may be called people, comprising on the one hand “[...] an inclusion that claims to be total,” and on the other “[...] an exclusion known to be hopeless,” in other words, “[...] at one extreme, the total state of integrated and sovereign citizens, and at the other, the domain - court of miracles or camp - of the wretched, the oppressed, the defeated” (Agamben, 2004, p.184). In this view, “the constitution of the human species in a political body goes through a fundamental split” comprising this category of people - bare life (people) and political existence (People), exclusion and inclusion, zoe and bios - becoming a fundamental biopolitical fracture where there is a struggle for more or less inclusion by those who consider themselves excluded, integration with existing forms of governmentality or their radical transformation (Agamben, 2004). Thus we see in this fundamental biopolitical fracture both the expansion of existing forms of governmentality and the insurrection against them, emanated from or mediated by those who, in their multiplicity, can be welcomed under this sign of people, while the population, according to the terms described above, is characterized by a certain unity of what may be called in the classic tradition the category of People.

The crevice of this fundamental biopolitical fracture allows us to better understand the achievements, limits and setbacks of PNEEPEI. In the case of Brazil, this crevice, opened with the promulgation of the Constitution of 1988, aimed to ensure reparation for the suffering caused by the exclusion of the people from the public sphere and offer devices for their security within the scope of government policy, following a past of submission to extractive colonization, slave politics and patriarchal culture. This was based on the offer of compensatory policies, also called affirmative policies, thus establishing some forms of inclusive governmentality of the population by the state.

PNEEPEI may be situated in this general outline of Brazilian state governmentality, resulting from state action in the sphere of public policy in order to expand government over the population, integrating sectors of the people or harnessing the active force of the so-called multitude to make them equally productive and, above all, include them in the market. Although these were also the demands of those sectors, in general thanks to their struggles and the organization of various civil society movements, as an ascending form of governmentality and their effective participation in the public sphere, this policy particularly meets the aspirations of people with disabilities and their family and community organizations, regardless of how it was designed and how much it represents its intended public. In other words, more than a state concession, its goals and actions resulted from a compromise between what had been demanded by this public and the understanding of what would be possible at the moment, comprising perception and intelligibility achieved in the biopolitical game played by these communities and professionals of the area, in an extremely auspicious historical-institutional outlook.

Its particularity regarding the fundamental biopolitical fracture concerns not so much redressing a long local history due to our socio-cultural background, but one of the accidental multiplicities and performance deficits, associated with the physical conditions of people with disabilities, claimed to have been overcome or regulated by means of technologies of biopower and especially their implementation in school education. Less stigmatized than other differences, disability was viewed over the period with some degree of tolerance, either on religious grounds or because it do not pose such a big threat to others, rarely being considered a new revolutionary monster. However, as shown on another occasion (Pagni, 2017a), accidents that characterize ontologically what can be called disability may be traversed by several other signs related to ethnic-racial issues, social conditions of poverty, gender or sexuality, among others that can express and, mainly, be seen as a symptom of a threat or capable of representing danger to others.

While PNEEPEI was being drafted, the strategy used was to filter out those other signs in order to address disability as part of a specialized sign, applied to certain subjects so they may be treated with specific technologies, of care or special education, aimed at this public around which they coalesce. One may also consider that, given the conditions of its drafting and the configuration of the specialists’ committee, the signs that gather this public are still defined by the specialties of each disability, by the types of knowledge and technologies produced and accumulated by Special Education, designed for the care of intellectual, physical, auditory and visual disabilities, divided into those categories. In turn, such distribution and occasional overlapping of those categories denoted specific subjects, with their other signs and constitutive traits filtered out, as objects of their care during the implementation of PNEEPEI, neutralizing their possible threat to make them socially subject to a series of devices that, by governing them, accommodates them to certain conducts and behaviors.

With its implementation by 2016, however, it was ascertained that such signification, filtering and restriction of the subjective potentiality of people with disabilities undertaken by the types of knowledge and techniques accumulated by the Special Education area were not sufficient to achieve the goals posited at the time, nor were their circulation in the area of ​​Education and socialization in teacher training courses effective enough to promote school inclusion. This limitation was partly due to the fact that such knowledge and techniques failed to sensitize teachers working in primary and secondary schools and make their actions intelligible so that the inclusion devices would be restricted to curriculum adaptations, to specialized and multifunctional classrooms, among others. Awareness of this limitation, in turn, opens the possibility for these professionals and researchers in the area of ​​Special Education to observe two distinct yet complementary events. The first is the emergence of signs, distinct from those previously addressed by the types of knowledge and techniques intended for those subjects, expressed by their bodies and common forms of life, going beyond the scientific concepts and predetermined judgments regarding the sign of disability. The second is that when they relate to other students and note that some of them also present shortcomings similar to those presented by the sign of disability, such professionals realize the need to give them unique and differentiated attention, even though they are not denoted as people with disabilities.

It is undeniable the extent to which these events, on the one hand, challenge the filters originally defined by the types of knowledge and techniques of the Special Education area, and, on the other hand, by broadening the meanings of inclusion sought by PNEEPEI, problematize the homogenizing character present in school practices and teachers’ action, requiring them to reassess how they conceive both their subjects and their methods. This would imply profound changes in the training of teachers and other professionals, as these events make the challenges of school inclusion originally envisaged by PNEEPEI more complex. In turn, the multiplication of filters and expansion of signs to understand disability, rather than affording a better understanding of the methods to teach and assist the subjects that embody them, would help us better understand the people with whom these professionals work, in their multiplicity and becoming, as well as the intersubjective, ethical and political dimensions that run through educational action, providing them with a choice that is, stylistically, singular and therefore subjective.

It is important to stress that with the implementation of this Policy and in the face of these political challenges, people with disabilities started frequenting mainstream schools, making their bodies and common forms of life circulate through the spaces and time frames of such institutions, producing a fortuitous series of encounters with their other actors and an ethical learning that goes beyond the forms of governmentality therein established. It is this ethical learning that results from the school’s safety and inclusion devices that some of its actors, particularly teachers, directors and staff, would be unable to see or make visible within the institution. And even if this effect derived from inclusive policies, to occupy the fundamental biopolitical fracture and supply one of its demands in neoliberalism, this almost invisible ethical learning is only possible due to the mechanisms nonetheless established by them.

Disability as Threat, Thanatos-Politics and Setbacks of PNEEPEI

Some studies analyzing the perspective of inclusion adopted in Special Education in Brazil from the point of view of Foucauldian biopolitical categories (Veiga-Neto; Lopes, 2011) have characterized part of the in/exclusion devices, that is, which provisionally serve market relations and those of a neoliberal state, outlining on the one hand a relationship of inclusion while excluding on the other certain features of those included to adapt them to such a demand. In particular, we have stressed that, in addition to this interdiction proposed by a certain paradigm of inclusion, they introduce people with disabilities into a fundamental biopolitical fracture insofar as they align themselves with the figures of the people in a specific neoliberal configuration.

Expanding on how this scientific paradigm of inclusion is subordinated to the market, one may say that in this perspective, people with disabilities should be subordinated to economic rationality and a competitive game in which they necessarily become entrepreneurs of themselves and position themselves as disadvantaged players not to be taken seriously, disregarding the potentiality of their forms of existence. When they do consider it, it is to justify that both these people and all others who graduate from school aim to develop human capital, a little more privileged for some, less for others, depending on the risks involved and, precisely, on an adaptive potential that allows them to be flexible in their profile, according to their supply in the market, and efficient in the function for which they are hired, according to the requirements of production (Pagni, 1917b).

This is the extreme we reach when acting within this logic and rationality, if not endorsed, at least almost unchallenged by the inclusive perspective assumed in PNEEPEI and preserved in its implementation. After all, any adherence to an inclusive perspective without questioning what it implies in terms of power relations in society and in the networks interwoven in school disregards what the presence of this other challenges in us (Skliar, 2003). That is because it makes us treat them as merely different and makes us want them to subordinate themselves to the truth that we adopt to live, to the rules that life comprises, to the safety and regulatory devices they produce to make us part of a population, homogenized by the sign of a specific citizenship and governed by the technologies of biopower.

If previously it was already hard to face the challenge of discussing this scenario and the questioning raised by the particularity of this ethical difference and its ontology - subjective transformation and the subjectivation processes produced - with the misguided official policies we have no objective conditions to even create a field of perception in that direction. That means admitting that the current prohibitions, resulting from this setback in Brazilian state policies, makes it even more difficult under these conditions to make visible and intelligible those forms of existence included in the multiplicities of people and of the place occupied in some of them by the signs that denote them as disabled, as well as the effects of the accidents they embody, which constitute them in some way and with which they are forced to live. It was the field of perception of this ethos, so to speak, which was most affected by the current trend to suspend the inclusive perspective of the National Policy for Special Education, for if previously it had enabled an acknowledgment of the limits of the adopted scientific paradigm of inclusion, it now radicalizes it, transforming that form of existence called disabled into a threat and an occasional target of resentment, exclusion and violence.

This is so because in the context of the fundamental biopolitical fracture, the technologies of biopower place life at the core of power calculations and, as such, endorse lives that are worth more, can be qualified and are worthy of being lived, differentiating them from those that are worth less, are despicable and hardly deserve to be lived. From this point of view, the statistical definition of population averages (such as death rates, births, marriages, etc.) and the definition of standards for their government help to select, with those calculations, the recipients of state attention, the distribution of its security devices and access to a certain degree of protection so life can be qualified (bíos), regulated and comply with this form of governmentality, called biopolitics.

This form of top-down governmentality (descending from state to population) is interested in including all lives, regardless of their appreciation, which is positive, but such judgement requires that something be left out for them to be included, and many times, depending on what is left out, some forms of existence end up being cast adrift, marginalized, left to their own devices. Part of people with disabilities, especially those who, being able to express themselves publicly in person or through their family and friends, mitigated these more radical forms of exclusion, contained in the actual game played out by inclusion policies in that last decade. After all, they took advantage of acquired rights and, despite facing greater adversities and hardship, occupied jobs thanks to the schooling process they went through, among other factors that added qualification to human capital.

In general, in the recent past, one may say that disabled bodies and their common forms of life supposedly did not threaten so directly the economic rationality of biopolitics. Maybe this is due to a certain popular or religious culture that, in a way, ended up buffering its effects on the government of the population in Brazil. However, people with disabilities may be seen as a threat when their bodies and common forms of life are traversed by signs that empower a possible insurrectional event. Among such signs we can highlight those related to the visibility given to the effects of accidents on them and deformations suffered by their own flesh in certain contexts or through their association with other signs such as experiencing poverty, gender differences, ethnic-racial issues and in other situations that short-circuit prevailing power or domination relations. In these cases, when these signs or accidents incarnate in disabled bodies and their ordinary forms of life traverse them and turn them into channels of expression, state governmentalities and, more recently, market interventions seek to correct and regulate them to prevent them from interrupting network flows and action. Thus, by obscuring this fundamental biopolitical fracture, such forms of state or private correction or regulation make their configuration as part of the people imperceptible to better subject the population to their government.

However, when this is not possible because the multiplicity of signs persists on the surface of those bodies and the chaos of their ordinary forms of existence, these forms of life are left to chance, that is, to a game of death rather than life. In other words, their lives are subject to a Thanatos-politics for which the state shuns responsibility and the market feeds in order to proliferate its networks, creating a minefield with no laws, rules or any regulation whatsoever4, amidst an excessively controlled population under the specter of biopolitics.

Something akin to this biopolitical reconfiguration, in its Thanatos-politics facet, is observed currently in some federal government actions, besides the spread in various networks - especially the so-called social networks - of a hate speech against everything that is strange to it to assure a normalized, appeased and regulated life within current biopolitical parameters. At the same time, its fundamental fracture, rather than being presented as sutured, healed, avoiding any reaction, is viewed with indifference, exposing violence against certain forms of difference as legitimate and deeming as natural the omission of state policies to ensure that which alleviates the precariousness of those bodies and ordinary forms of life that bring them together.

If, on the one hand, it seems necessary to urgently resist this current reconfiguration that empowers states of domination and violence against ethical differences and break with an apparent state of conformity, on the other one cannot ignore the lines of continuity between the latter and the scientific paradigm of inclusion adopted in neoliberalism. We might even say that one unfolds from the other and that the result of the radicalization of this paradigm in this direction, openly revealing its Thanatos-politics facet, occurs due to prior resistance movements carried out at micro and macro political levels. These movements also serve to justify the state’s and market’s renewed opposition to them, according to a rather conservative view nowadays, criminalizing and exploiting them to relieve the social pressure arising from a biopolitical fracture inhabited by the people’s unpredictability, chaos, multiplicity, ungovernability and failure to apprehend the forms of government in progress, the technologies of biopower and the methods of their subjugation.

At micro political level, the legal, political and moral devices that spread this paradigm through the various governing arts - including pedagogical or pedagogical-therapeutic - put it into circulation and materialized it in almost all institutions, especially schools. It requires people with disabilities to pay too high a price to be included in a rationality, a regime of truth and normativity, which are those we recognize as ours, of part of a population submitted to those existing forms of governmentality. In turn, this demand implies that, in the desired self-government, such people give up part of what they are, their uniqueness as a being and their own way of inhabiting the world - that is, their ethos - for the sake of a regulated species, a supposedly qualified life, and a peace occasionally promised with such inclusion. When giving in to such a demand, people with disabilities and, when they are not able to make that choice, their family members, caregivers or friends try to ignore, hide or neutralize their shortcomings and limitations, or to show at all costs that they have been overcome.

On the one hand, the negativity with which disabled bodies and their ordinary forms of life are viewed reinforce the top-down devices of biopower. These devices disqualify and disempower those bodies, prejudging them as fragile lives that, due to their weakness, are worthy of life because of the glimpse of human trace seen in them. At the same time, with this gesture we recognize what is left of humanity in us. Paradoxically, on the other hand, these lives give continuity to a culture whose genesis can be found in the middle of the last century, according to Peter Sloterdijk (2012), in the principle of athletic asceticism adopted by people with disabilities who claim to be proof of the capability of being equal to any person and an example of moral tenacity to overcome one’s own weaknesses.

Such exemplarity, by nourishing a principle of performance later adopted in the development of neoliberal biopolitics, is assumed as a subjective, identity-based principle, set up as an imperative for the contemporary fitness culture, as shown by Pagni (2017c). At the same time, by concealing the circulating negativity regarding disabled bodies and their ordinary forms of life, an attenuating fallacy about their precariousness is put into circulation, mitigating and disempowering their fragility in the name of an empty humanity, serving as a kind of excuse for our indifference or mere lack of perception of their powerful difference. These seem to be the power games of which this biopolitical configuration consists, better explored on another occasion (Pagni, 2017a) and briefly recalled here to point out that under the paradigm of its scientificity, this game conceals - even in the field of semiology - what remains of or exceeds the life strength contained by disabled bodies and their common forms of existence.

Historically, what remained of this life strength has defined those bodies and common forms of existence since the emergence of inclusion policies in Brazil, tempering hostilities against them insofar as they could not live up to the imperative of efficiency and the principle of performance in current biopolitics. However, their excesses, which were already considered an outrage, have currently come to be seen also as something ungovernable to be controlled, restrained and ruled at all costs, therefore, as a threat. To this end, tougher actions, such as those established for other signs of difference mentioned earlier, are adopted, taking on a more frightening aspect in the current political context. This includes considering the return of psychiatric institutions in mental health policies, and, analogously, the return of special classes in mainstream schools in Special Education as a solution for the so-called inclusive perspective, with a view to containing such excesses, relying on technologies and types of knowledge that are supposedly more modern.

In such cases, these state macro policy measures would favor both the health and education oligopolies of the private sectors, which have established themselves as enterprises for which insanity and disability would be, respectively, a profitable business and an unnecessary high-risk investment - in a clear option for isolation - regarding family members or caregivers who, as understandable as this may be, would not be willing to bear the burden of this family coexistence, thus outsourcing care for the mentally ill and people with disabilities. It is these strategies that immobilize the fundamental biopolitical fracture nowadays and thus, in macro political terms, the federal government would merely fulfill its role of providing security to these people and their families by investing public resources in those private companies to subsidize such aid and getting rid of such expenses, considered excessive for a state that should be minimal.

Exempting this same state from responsibility would meaning leaving those people to their own devices and allowing the market to define rules, technologies and costs for their care, preferably by making these lives part of a dispute of to what extent they can endure and allow abandonment, exploiting as much as possible their precariousness, fragility and disempowerment. The question that is raised in the light of this interpretation is: After all, what kind of threat do disabled bodies and their common forms of life pose for a system so rationally protected and, in biopolitical terms, with so many life-regulating devices? This question is similar to the one put forward by Peter Paul Pelbart (2007). After arguing that life has been taken to extremes by being reduced to mere survival, he envisions in the immanence that escapes the imperatives of the governing biopower and in the bodies that contain it some force capable of overflowing it, a kind of bio-strength that ethically resists and politically rebels against this current configuration of biopolitics. Pelbart asks, if a body is power to be affected, how then to preserve that capacity for affection if not through [...] a certain weakness, therefore: “[...] How to have the strength to be up to one’s own weakness instead of remaining in the weakness of cultivating only strength?” (Pelbart, 2007, 69).

It is this absurd question, which has led us to find in the weakness of disabled bodies and their common forms of life a bio-strength to be cultivated. Once put into circulation, this strength makes us perceive the possibility of producing mediations that can mobilize us so that we reassess our insertion in the biopower game, driving us towards an ethical shift and, at the same time, a political stance. This has been a necessary move to focus on the lines that sketch a different paradigm of inclusion or, as in Carlos Skliar’s (2003) more radical suggestion, to maybe avoid talking about inclusion to better understand what is happening to us in the encounter with the positivity and potentiality that materialize in these forms of existence, with these disabled bodies and their common forms of life.

A paradigm that, before focusing on the self-surpassing strength of disability or its exemplarity as a process of subjectivation that reiterates a certain moral tenacity to make bodies productive, defends a relationship of otherness with that other, with the potency it brings, not in relation to the strength it cultivates, but to its fragility. It is this fragility that produces for it a singularity or difference in the encounter with us that, by not being previously judged as negative, may produce a certain familiarity due to the very weakness of our forces, our shortcomings and the need to learn to live with our fragility. This is a common becoming among the bio-strength of these bodies produced in the encounter with our bodies which, however uncertain and inaccurate they may be, produce signs from their happening, which remain as yet poorly deciphered, reflected on and seen in research in various academic fields.

Towards an Aesthetic Paradigm of Inclusion: Other Strategies and Transversality

It is not a matter of proposing from the composition of science with art and philosophy a new interdisciplinary paradigm to address the subject, although we also consider the lack of such a condition. After all, as explained earlier, the notion of paradigm is slightly differently herein compared to philosophy of science, closer to the way Agamben (2009) understood it. Contrary to that narrower understanding, in this one the investigative attitude adopted by these forms of ethical learning requires some care, because, as Agamben (2007) once again suggests, it sometimes implies desecrating a terrain, accommodating it, regulating it, albeit in terms of elaboration, withdrawing from it its power of encounter with bodies and contributing to the disempowerment of its common forms of life in school. Therefore, we understand that this is a delicate condition which implies a greater challenge, perchance even the adoption of the ethical imperative of the indignity of speaking for the other, in the terms enunciated by Foucault (2004).

In this case of speaking for people with disabilities or, in the event of an impediment, for their relatives and close friends, more than an objective scientific procedure, seems to be a subjective defense for researchers - that are in the disabled person’s place of speech - not to detach themselves from their identity and to put their conscience at rest. In order to change this attitude, we must be willing to try to enter the experience that disturbs us, to honestly acknowledge the limits of the concepts, procedures and techniques we assimilate to approach it, whether philosophical, scientific or artistic, and, rather than empirically, address it as a process of actual experimentation in which the main experiment is ourselves, our processes of subjectivation, where what matters stylistically is not the tool used, but its result, or rather the product of its attempt.

In this sense, more than criticizing the limits of the scientific paradigm of inclusion underpinning PNEEPEI, reassessed in its implementation and suspended in its current dismantling in light of the ethical-political challenges identified, one must review the strategies of the fields of knowledge and techniques that legitimized its actions, including those currently proposed and which aim to dissolve its inclusive perspective. If areas such as Special Education supported its constitution in an effort to make education incorporate an inclusive perspective, it also drew on more specialized scientific and technical resources and restricted itself to the public assisted under the designation of disabled people. Therefore, it also developed a form of circumscribing the bodies and common forms of life mentioned above to a view riddled with signs and concepts, as exposed in this essay and developed by that area over decades.

Notwithstanding all the accumulation developed in this field since late 19905, its conceptions were key in drafting and implementing PNEEPEI. Not only because they were used in an attempt to build a metadiscourse capable of supporting teaching practices and technologies under development, not always in tune with or committed to it, but also because, despite its various theoretical references, it insisted on a hierarchical and specialized stance, practically dispensing in its construction with the presence of the stakeholders, that is, the actual people with disabilities or, when they could not express themselves, their relatives and friends. Except as objects of research or empirical subjects in most productions in this field, the latter were rarely viewed as actors or active participants of public policy for the sector, whose design and development were left to specialists. Perhaps there prevailed in the scientific paradigm underpinning PNEEPEI a perception that, according to common sense, they had little to contribute, disregarding the fact that it did not involve a scientific community, but rather a political dispute and a community that seeks to insert itself in the public sphere and influence the public policies it demands. Or, at worst, there prevailed also in this field, in opposition to the discourse of inclusion and the capacity of people with disabilities to have a qualified life, a presumption that they are like subjects, previously assigning them to a place of enunciation or expression which they occupy, but from which they cannot speak for themselves. In this sense, they were viewed merely as informants of the signs deciphered by scientists or, at most, by the ongoing normalization also sought by their relatives and friends when they face an insurmountable limitation.

What seems striking, however, is that their fragility, where their strength could be glimpsed, was the first to be ignored in the last two years in the hegemonic discourses issued by the Ministry of Education, the body in charge of Education Special. On the contrary, the discourses circulating in that ministry reaffirm the objective theses of its actions, neutralizing any possible politicization and stressing the iniquity of any metadiscourse postulating the inclusive perspective, due to its supposed ideological load, viewed as alien to the scientific parameters of the adopted rationality. Besides corroborating the economic rationality of neoliberalism and radicalizing its support in even more objectivist criteria without questioning the aims of this biopolitical reconfiguration, such a posture stems from a previous trend circulating in the actual field and even in the defense of a specific perspective of Inclusive Education viewed as universally just, but free from ideological tones or political stances.

This is the aspect to be problematized by research in this area and that could help us reassess the directions of the inclusive perspective underpinning PNEEPEI, since it evidences one of the reasons why the types of knowledge and techniques it produces are used by the executive bodies of this policy and inadvertently assimilated by the professionals who act in this field, without the appropriate critiques and proposals for its overall reorganization, merely deleting passages or sentences and keeping intact much of the actions it prescribes. This is because this perspective is based on an epistême that, by regulating its types of knowledge, ignores its power relations and minimizes its transversality both in the school curriculum and in the areas of knowledge it comprehends.

If power relations are not observed in the original document, this transversality is therein acknowledged, from which one might infer that, to that end, at least the multi- and interdisciplinarity required for such a purpose would be considered, expanding its margins to address its objects and issues or even to reformulate its conceptions of subjects and research methods. Much to the contrary, from its publication to the present, it seems to us that the area has made little progress in expanding its margins of interface with other fields of scientific knowledge, philosophy and the arts. Moreover, it has hardly promoted, with the use of methodologies from other fields or created for such, a greater circulation of discourses, personal reports and testimonies by people with disabilities or, when not possible, by their relatives and friends about what they think, imagine, desire, believe or feel in face of the worlds they inhabit. Such an overall attitude would surely help to broaden the field of perception and intelligibility regarding their demands, as well as enable research in this area to break with the practice of treating people with disabilities merely as passive objects, informants or subjects of scientific protocols and allow them a role as actors. It would also afford a more realistic dimension of their relationships with different forms of inclusion, of how their bodies interact in them and form common ways of life in institutions such as schools, among others, following the implementation of policies for people with disabilities. In this way, they could offer a different point of view to evaluate the latter, one more precise for stemming from the public to whom they are intended, viewed from the inside of established devices. However, few studies have been carried out in sense, although those that converge in this direction have produced significant results.

In one of these studies, Ana Cristina Boher Gilbert (2012) helps us understand a given semiology of discourses disseminated by books written and films produced by parents of people with disabilities, as well as slogans circulating in the press concerning a meaning for their possible inclusion. In another study, Ignacio Calderón Almendros (2014), analyzing the life experience of his brother Rafael, suggests that he found another paradigm of inclusion in music, that is, in an art that requires a very particular way of learning and harmonizing. In turn, our research drew on the accounts by Eliane Brum (2006) to highlight a paradigm of inclusion happening through gesture and gaze, that is, on an aesthetic level in which relationships with disabled people occur and in a ethopoietic work on the self, as well as on a biopolitical level in which disabled bodies and their common forms of life are traversed by other signs, which contextualize them in a sociocultural reality such as Brazil’s (Pagni, 2017a). It is these signs that permeate them and endow these bodies and ordinary forms of life, in the current context, with the strength to be seen as a political threat. Just as it is the struggles fought to seize them and their escapes, on the pre-discursive level or on the level of an a-signifying semiotics, which makes us find in the lines of this escape a scientific paradigm shift on which inclusion has been directed towards an aesthetic sphere or paradigm, where its emergence occurs provisionally in, with and through the difference with others.

Under such a paradigm it would be possible to apprehend the immanence of these lives and chart how they meet and, when they come across a different singularity and are affected, their respective shifts and processes of subjectivation. What is thus postulated, more modestly than in the shift proposed by Félix Guattari in an interview, when he suggests that psychoanalysis evolve from a scientific to an aesthetic paradigm, is to apprehend “[...] this dimension, the closest to creativity, the closest to a development of narrative lines of formal constructions that allow us to chart a subjectivity that is there no more, but is already there in a movement of becoming” (Guattari, 2010, p. 8). Falling short of a cartographic method and closer to the way in which the ethics of friendship modernized the Foucauldian aesthetics of existence (Pagni, 2016, 2018), we have approached a different methodological configuration in the sense of this understanding of the immanence of disabled bodies and their common forms of life, realizing that, in many cases, a different paradigm of inclusion is already emerging in schools, reported by many colleagues and friends of people with disabilities. Finally, after ten years of their presence in those institutions, they are disseminating reports about the ethical lessons of this friendship, the common becoming of the disabled they produce and the importance of living with their own shortcomings, suggesting a field of subjective development and of resistance.

The problem is that they are seldom seen, and when they are, they become the target of a campaign of defamation and hate, as is happening today, or, justified in certain specialties, it is said that they emerge parallel to the school, not concerning them. This is because they do not relate to the acquisition of knowledge for which this institution and its curriculum are responsible, nor to the work of specialized, psychological or psycho-educational counseling that would favor it. Thus, they should be considered as remnants that do not fit in our fields of specialization, being ignored in their present strength in the field of ethical-subjective development and resistance, since at most they are viewed as forms of sociability or subjectivation that exceed what is desired by the governing arts, curriculum specialties or school activities.

We have argued that this is a field to which Philosophy of Education should be alert and intervene jointly with other areas of Education, Humanities and Arts. We also believe that this multidisciplinary action would allow the filters of people with disabilities to expand to include the multiplicity of their signs so they are treated like any other person, without the need for differential treatment, or, to put it better, so everyone is treated differently according to their singularities. This implies abandoning a disciplinary approach in order to act in another way, with other strategies and composition of types of knowledge and techniques. Thus, it is not about disputing the territory to be charted nor waiving support from other areas such as Special Education, but about jointly carrying out a process of recomposing knowledge, unterritorializing fields so that new frontiers may emerge and, above all, changing the power relations that fix them, stagnating their transitivity between life and school.

To this end, we must go beyond treating these disabled bodies as remnants of our knowledge and viewing their common ways of life as limiting our power at school. In that sense, we need to learn to treat them as bio-strengths, at the risk of what that means and what they currently mediate in each of us.


1Essay based on the partial outcomes of the research O ingovernável da deficiência na escola: entre a resistência ao governo das diferenças e outro paradigma de inclusão, supported by CNPq through a PQ grant (2017-2020).

2We will use here the notion of paradigm developed by Giorgio Agamben (2009). For the Italian philosopher, unlike Thomaz Kuhn (2011), paradigm is not restricted to the rules of normal science, its prescription by the scientific community or the structure of its transformations, according to the terms postulated by philosophy of science. On the contrary, paradigm is viewed by him as “[...] a singular object that, availing itself of others of the same class, defines the intelligibility of the group of which it is a part and which, at the same time, constitutes it” (Agamben, 2009, p. 25).

3For Negri (2004), the multitude is characterized by a group of singularities - and not exactly a unit - that emerge from the immanence peculiar to life, representing a class by its mobility and productivity, suggesting at the same time a strength insofar as they imply a struggle for that very life, through the common forms they comprise and the freedom and joy to which they aspire. Unlike that which the tradition of political philosophy termed the People, the multitude defies any possibility of representing it in a totality and in a unit due to its multiplicity, for, says Negri, in addition to its immeasurable singularity, it is “the flesh of life” (Negri, 2004, p.17), constituting itself as an interacting and self-organizing active social actor that sometimes brings about radical transformations in ontology, the productive sector and biopolitics, breaking with the hegemonic forms of government of the population and presenting alternatives to other common ways of life. We will not dwell here on the criticisms - with which we agree - of this notion of multitude for embodying the notion of people, bestowing on it a substantive view of resistance and of the new subject of revolution in advanced capitalism, but merely draw attention to the fact that there are various ways of filling or occupying the fundamental biopolitical fracture.

4 Agamben (2004) describes this state of exception as the way in which bare life is realized in biopolitics, in a kind of Thanatos-politics that inhabits it and whose paradigm is the concentration camp. We will not pursue this analysis, but merely stress that in our case it seems unnecessary, on the one hand, to go so far, and, on the other, to disregard that these lives are part of a power game in which their strength may constitute a threat to the prevailing states of domination and, more recently, to the states of violence, to use the diagnosis of Frédéric Gros (2009). Such states seek legitimacy in the public or private sphere to rationally impose all manner of violence one these bodies and lives that denote some fragility regarding the signs that they embody or express, justifying it as necessary to preserve the safety of others.

5We can highlight the importance in its research of the influence of anthropological perspectives, such as those of Gilberto Velho (2003), to highlight the cultural variables of disability and minimize its biologizing determinations. Something similar occurred with the use of sociological sources such as those of Erving Goffman (1988) and, more recently, of the English theorists of Disabilities Studies, along the lines suggested by Gustavo Martins Piccolo (2014), to sociologically understand the social representations and social-political dimension of disability. In the field of psychology we highlight the centrality of studies such as those by Lígia Amaral (1998) and, more recently, a specific interpretation of cultural-historical psychology to expand the sources of behavioral psychology and to validate the paradigm of inclusion in progress. This is not to mention the warning against the potential trap of supporting it in a promise that would entail its exclusionary facet, along the lines stressed by Carlos Skliar (2001; 2003), among others.


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Received: July 16, 2018; Accepted: December 03, 2018


Pedro Angelo Pagni is a professor of the Department of School Administration and the Graduate Program in Education at FFC-UNESP, Marília Campus. He is a CNPq 1D Level Productivity Grant Holder and author of several articles and books, among which stand out Experiência estética, formação humana e arte de viver (Loyola, 2014), Ética, transversalidade e deficiência (CRV, 2018) and Biopolítica, deficiência e educação (Editora UNESP, in print). ORCID:

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